Pepper Trail Plantation Retreat

Pepper Trail Plantation Retreat set in the heart of a 200 acres of silent, serene coffee and spice plantations, surrounded by the tropical rainforests of Wayanad.

The nine room Pepper Trail is an experiential retreat set in a 200-acre coffee and spice plantation in the mist clad hills of Wayanad. Featuring heritage suites, private pool villas and luxury tree houses, Pepper Trail off ers a private holiday experience cocooned in warm, old world luxury. The charming 140-year-old colonial estate bungalow houses two elegantly furnished suites filled with antiques and family heirlooms. Nestled high amongst ancient trees, the luxury tree houses feature safari style furniture, luxurious bathrooms and wooden decks that off unending views of the surrounding plantation. The heritage pool villas come with generously proportioned rooms, private garden and a temperature controlled infinity-edged pool overlooking the lush plantation.

The retreat specialises in the local Kerala cuisine and off ers a thoughtfully curated journey into the region’s rich culinary heritage. The orchard, the organic farm and the spice plantation ensure an abundant daily supply of fresh produce and are an interesting visit during a stay. The signature experience at Pepper Trail is a private guided walking tour where guests learn fi rst-hand the journey of coff ee from the bush to cup and the processes that give pepper its black, white and green colour. The historic edakkal caves and the Muthanga wildlife sanctuary are some of the attractions nearby. A relaxing massage at the private spa pavillion is a great way to relax after a day spent exploring.

Treehouses and colonial charm, fine homey food and lots and lots of greenery. Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy enjoy their Pepper Trail plantation stay in Wayanad.

We trudged up the wooden ramp that gently snaked 40ft above the coffee bushes to the Woodpecker Treehouse, on the Pepper Trail Plantation Retreat. Inspired by Wayanad tribal styles and built on a sturdy jack fruit tree, our lavish perch came with woodpanelled walls, a luxurious bathroom, a wide balcony with easy chairs, besides a country style four poster bed next to a tree jutting through the floor. While we’re no strangers to Kerala or treehouses, this was by far the most luxurious perch we had been to. Woodpecker’s twin, the Hornbill Treehouse, was a little further away.

Every morning and evening, we’d sip coffee, watching barbets and sunbirds flit about while racket tailed drongoes and Malabar grey hornbills competed in vocal calisthenics. We sat watching the rain beat down on the heart shaped leaves of the pepper plant that quivered in the cool wind. Apparently, when the British were taking the pepper plant back to England, the Zamorin of Calicut had scoffed, “They may take our pepper vine, but they cannot steal our Thiruvathira Njattuvela (the 15 day assault of the monsoon that triggers the fruiting of the pepper).” Pepper Trail Plantation Retreat is a good place to tell your poriyal (dry vegetable) from your ullithiyal (roasted shallots in spicy tamarind coconut gravy). The genuine warmth of our host Anand Jayan was apparent as he patiently explained how farm fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from the 200 acre coffee, tea and spice plantation were used to make home style delicacies. All served under the tiled roof Pavilion, its deck hovering over a swathe of coffee shrubs broken by the shade of tall silver oak and jackfruit. From cheruvayur pindi toran (tempered green gram) to chena mizhaku pereti (yam fry), nendra pazham curry made of ripe bananas to kayi toran, stir fried with unripe ones, each meal was a culinary journey.

Sometimes, our chicken came in a varatherecha curry with roasted ground masalas or as chicken kizhi (bundled in a leaf pouch) with mint chutney. The lean staff toiled away, ready to take care of every need, appearing and disappearing magically to make the holiday experience a private indulgence. With a maximum occupancy of ten guests, Pepper Trail Plantation Retreat offers truly personalised service.

After two days of trudging up and down from the tree house, we moved to the 140 year old Pazhey Bungalow, the ‘old’ plantation bungalow. Set in a manicured garden, the first floor houses the Mackenzie Suite, in honour of the estate’s original owner Colin Auley Mackenzie, a pioneering Scottish planter who founded the Mangalam Carp Estate in the late 1800s. After he died in 1920, Anand’s maternal grandfather P.B. Kurup returned from Africa and bought the colonial estate in 1932. Long before biotechnology took off in India, this pioneer got into the manufacture of distilled water and extraction of oil from eucalyptus, patchouli and bergamot… People called him Techno Kurup.

The ground floor, with its offices and red oxide floors, was renovated into the Malabar Suite, with a hall, bedroom, sitout, and the old chemical storeroom converted into a large bathroom. The philosophy of the place is rooted in Anand’s vision of creating special places to stay. Taking up his father’s challenge, he renovated it with great care. Each Basel Mission roof tile and anjali (wild jack) wooden board on the wall was removed, numbered and put back.

The old glass swivel windows on its facade have watched history unfold. With heirlooms and furniture collected from antique shops, this wood-scented hideaway is ideal for solitude or romance. Lounge in wicker plantation chairs or in reading nooks where speckled piculets peck at windows, indignant at their own reflections, or relax in the secluded balcony overlooking a backyard garden with bamboo thickets and trees frequented by scarlet minivets.

The sprawling estate is great for birding besides leisurely walks to understand how coffee and tea are cultivated. Guests can participate in farm work, as experienced hands harvest coffee, tea and spice, using centuries-old methods. In the heart of the estate, fed by natural springs, the acre wide natural reservoir forms the focal point for local flora and fauna. Perfect for fishing or a leisurely canoe or coracle ride, this is one spot where you’d like to linger. Or laze in the pool. Or get an Ayurvedic massage.

We decided to head out on an open jeep ride around the plantation. Lined by cheery orange and red heliconia, the driveway cut through the estate with tea bushes on one side and coffee on the other. Driving through the buffer zones of the Muthanga and Bandipur wildlife parks, we spotted seven elephants, wild boar and numerous chital.

It was time for dinner by the time we returned. The highlight was the mola aripayasam, or sweet porridge made of bamboo rice, jaggery and coconut milk. Each time the bamboo flowers once a century! the entire bamboo forest dies. It’s a fascinating natural phenomenon that’s as tragic as it’s beautiful. After blossoming, the flowers produce a fruit called ‘bamboo rice’, which is collected and stored for future use. It will be decades before the flowers bloom again, but we won’t wait that long to return.

Pepper Trail Plantation Retreat Information

The Mangalam Carp Estate, Chulliyode, Sulthan Bathery, Wayanad; 100km from Kozhikode

1 Malabar Suite, 1 Mackenzie Suite, 2 treehouses

From Rs.11,750, inclusive of breakfast

Location : Mangalam Carp Estate, Chulliyode, Sulthan Bathery, Wayanad, Kerala 673 592, India.
Phone : +91 95 62 277 000
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